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Tips on Self Build From Self Builders for Self Builders

Written by Suffolk Building Society

16 Aug 2022


Self Build, Self Build Autumn Series

5 min read

Interested in the story behind the ‘Grand Design’? We spoke to a panel of our self build mortgage borrowers about their projects, to share their experiences and help anyone who may be considering building, renovating, converting or extending a property in the future.

We’re so grateful for the candid responses from 19 of our borrowers. This panel comprises people starting their build from scratch but also a number of others making substantial improvements to existing properties. They are based across the UK and projects range from modest suburban properties to grand country homes.

Self build and renovation triumphs
The main reason, cited by 63% of the panel (12 people) for building their own home was to have complete say and control over the design, look and feel of their new property.

53% (10 people) also believed that this was a more cost-effective way to create a home than they could afford to buy otherwise. Several commented that the “Cost of the build” and “Being on budget” were the biggest triumphs of their project.

When asked about other triumphs, two people commented that their ability to manage the build quality had been a real success. Highlighting the fact that ‘self build’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘new build’, many of the panel were particularly pleased with their ability to breathe life into an older property, with several commenting on their historic homes and the recycling of existing building materials.

Others were more candid and said, “Finishing!’ was their biggest success and “Moving in day”!

Biggest regrets
Being hands-on in a build means that the homeowner is sometimes much more aware of shortfallings. One common sticking point was with utilities, in particular not getting them on site early enough.

Contrary to the comments above about saving money, it appears that Brexit, Covid, and inflation hit the budgets of some self builders hard.

However, more common were issues with the initial plans and not being sufficiently knowledgeable to challenge an architect in the early stages of the design.

Another regret was the finish of the property in the latter stages – either not questioning substandard workmanship or not spending enough time on the finish.

Advice for other self builders
For anyone thinking about going down the self build route in the future, our panel offered some advice, which can be summarised in the following quotes:

“Scrutinise all product costs, material cost etc. Shop about and always contact 4 or 5 providers for prices, you will save money over the project.”

“Choose your architect and builders well.”

“Keep on asking questions of designers, builders, suppliers, etc.”

And “Start thinking about the detail early as the decisions will come fast and furiously!”

Despite the regrets and learnings above, 15 out of 19 self builders would do it again and a further three (presumably those still in the thick of their build) frankly replied, “Ask me later on!” warning, “It takes longer and costs more than you expect!”

Reflecting on the sometimes increased stress levels and potential pressure on relationships during a self build project, one of the panel also touchingly added:

“Remember you love each other when things get tough.”

Wise words indeed.

For more information about self build and renovation mortgages click here.

Our series of self build and renovation blogs contain useful information for anyone wanting to know more about crafting their dream home.

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